Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Freud, Eiffel, the Four Minute Mile

It was also on this day, in 1954 that a 25 year-old medical student from Oxford University ran the first mile in under four minutes. His name was Roger Bannister. His record lasted less than a month before it was broken by an Australian whose name nobody remembers. Bannister retired from running within the year, but he will always be the first to break this arbitrary barrier, just as Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay had been the first to climb Everest a year earlier.

It was on May 6, 1889 that Eiffel's amazing tower was opened to visitors. Eiffel was 56 and had designed and would design many far more useful structures around the world, but it is with this tower in Paris that his name will always be associated. When it opened most Parisians thought it was a terrible eyesore.

Eiffel and Bannister appear once each in A Book of Ages.

May 6th is also the birthday of Sigmund Freud, born in 1856 in Freiburg, in what was then the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He appears 13 times in A Book of Ages, not just speculating about dreams, but collecting knick-knacks, being given a couch by a grateful patient, having his portrait sketched by Salvador Dali, meeting a rival psychoanalyst, giving up cigars, losing all his savings in an economic downturn, and, perhaps most memorably, seeing his mother naked when he was three years old.

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